Should people be punished, through sanctions or war, for the actions of their governments?
Many Americans certainly seem to think so. Their Senate, acting in the name of the American people, effectively authorized their President to bomb, torture and kill tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq, whose "crime" was to suffer the tragic misfortune of being governed by regimes that were regarded as rogues by the US government, even though the people had no had no hand in bringing their own regimes to power. Not having had enough, the House has recently passed a bill called the "Iran Freedom and Support Act" (they probably employ a full-time resident expert in Orwellian double-speak). The bill is supported by both Dems and Republicans. The American people are again ordering up yet another pizza from their local Domino's - their Senate and House of Representatives - this time with nuclear dressing that is likely to make Iraq look like a picnic of the local parish grandmothers.
[The recent diplomatic gambits notwithstanding, the rhetoric of John Bolton remains combative, and reluctant to countenance the possibility that the US might be lying to itself into a war yet again. "We want to give the Iranians a long rope with which to hang themselves" is what he's in essence saying.]
American citizens have therefore been complicit in wars that are not only illegal, but criminal by the standards established in Nuremberg after the second world war. And their appetite for war seems undiminished, especially in right-wing think tanks like the AEI and PNAC. But to expect most Americans beyond a few intellectuals to be aware of this complicity is like expecting fish to be aware of a world beyond water. If American politicians and diplomats and right-wing think tank analysts didn't keep traversing the globe wagging their finger at other countries, projecting their power and telling them how to run their own affairs, the public in the world outside America might be more receptive to the idea that most Americans are no different from themselves - being as immersed in getting on with their lives as they are, and really having no time to find out the truth behind the lies that their media and governments feed them. Unlike in many other countries, however, there are plenty of heroic John the Baptists in the American, British and Israeli political wildernesses, crying to their own people to take responsibility for the actions of their governments. But their voices are largely ignored by their governments and media. Result: blowback.
Now suppose some Jihadi group decides to apply the Anglo-American-Israeli principle of punishing people for the actions of their governments to people in the UK, US or Israel. It would be a catastrophic tragedy beyond our most nightmarish imaginings. Whether it would be worse or better than what the Iraqis and the Aghanis have had to put up with for the last decade or more is an academic question, - a silly one, moroever, were the prospects not so horrifying. But I don't think the regimes in the US or UK actually care whether thousands of their own people are killed when they get a taste of their own medicine. What we are witnessing is a massive failure of the ethical Golden Rule - we can do what we like (say the Great and the Good) to pursue what we define as our national interest, and we don't care what others do to us, because they are powerless in comparison to us. The cost in human lives, whether of our own people, or even less so, of others, is "a hard choice, but worth it".
In fact, the answer to the title question of this post is that, as recent American and British experience shows, the people are punished by the aggressive actions of their governments anyway. This needn't happen through bombs and terrorism, but by juristic re-definitions of freedom and "good governance", and by economic and social policies that are designed to inculcate a besieged and terrified mind-set. When popular opinion is mobilized against real and imagined threats from "global terror" and other nightmares, every other social priority can be subordinated to the needs of national security. The punishment also appears more subtly than bombs in subways and other acts of terrorism through the loss of credibility and respect and friendship in the rest of the world.
People in the US and UK are in the position of the comfortably complacent frog in the pot of water that is slowly coming to boil. Unless they listen to their own dissenters and jump out of the pot in time, they are likely to be boiled alive in their own "security".